London - Copper prices rose on Wednesday towards three-week highs hit in the previous session, as strong trade data from top consumer China fuelled hopes of demand revival, although uncertainty about the pace of economic growth kept gains in check.

Three-month copper on the London Metal Exchange (LME) rose to $7,322.50 a tonne at 11:33 SA time, up 0.8 percent from Tuesday's close of $7,265 a tonne.

The metal used in power has rebounded from 1-1/2 year lows hit at the end of April, climbing to a three-week high of $7,374 a tonne on Tuesday.

China's exports and imports grew more than expected in April, offering the possibility of a better outlook for the world's second-largest economy.

China's better-than-expected trade numbers came after German industrial orders showed unexpected strength earlier this week and after Friday's upbeat US monthly nonfarm payrolls.

“It's not surprising to see an uptick in prices after the recent sharp falls, especially given the encouraging data,” said Ross Strachan, economist at Capital Economics.

“But it is too soon to get overly optimistic about demand from China given the high level of inventories there for the likes of copper. There are still structural issues in China and

you're unlikely to see rapid acceleration of growth.”

China's copper arrivals fell 7.4 percent in April from a month ago to hit a 22-month low, hurt by port strikes in Chile and delays to shipments after the closure of India's biggest smelter.

STERLITE REMAINS SHUT

The market was also focused on supplies in India as its Sterlite Industries smelter will stay shut until at least May 14 when an environmental court meets again to review the case, a judge said on Wednesday, prolonging a six-week shutdown that has pushed up copper concentrate processing fees in Asia.

In other metals, tin rose to $20,447 from Tuesday's close of $20,200.

Refined tin shipments from Indonesia, the world's top exporter of the metal, fell 15.5 percent in April to 7,853.09 tonnes from 9,295.7 tonnes in March, a trade ministry official said on Wednesday.

Aluminium rose to $1,899 from $1,881, zinc climbed to $1,896 from $1,872.50 and lead rose to $2,057 from a last bid of $2,026 a tonne. Nickel climbed to $15,326 from $15,200 on Tuesday. - Reuters